The Daily Mail could end Brexit

The recent news that the Daily Mail has bought the i newspaper for £49.6m has caused alarm and dismay to many. Is this the latest example of the extreme right tightening their grip on Britain’s print media, 80% of which they already own? It was, after all, the Mail’s long running, vengeful and ferocious campaign against the EU, under Paul Dacre’s editorship, that set the scene for Brexit.

It may be that Dacre finally overstepped the mark with his “enemies of the people” attack on our top judges, or it may be that his particular brand of burning anger was no longer necessary once the worst of his work was successfully done; at any rate many hoped that his replacement by the more pragmatic Geordie Greig would signal a change of heart at Britain’s most popular daily, and a less toxic approach.

Support for this view comes from a leading article in the British Medical Journal, and raises the interesting possibility that the Mail might one day be in the vanguard of a drive to reverse the worst calamity it ever backed: Brexit. The argument is that if the paper has seen the light and abandoned its long term support of the anti-vaxx lobby, anything is possible.

Last month, under Geordie Greig’s direction, the newspaper launched a campaign – praised by the health secretary Matt Hancock – to promote the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and “reassure parents that vaccines, particularly MMR, are safe and vital.” Measles, which can be a killer, has returned to Britain following false claims by rogue doctor Andrew Wakefield.

Wakefield was struck off the medical register in 2010 for dishonesty and irresponsibility, having fraudulently claimed a link between the vaccine and autism. Many parents were frightened into not giving their children its protection.

“Knowing what we know now, the Wakefield study should never have been given such credence – and that is a matter of profound regret” said the Mail.

Wakefield himself was unabashed, and being possessed of a charming nature he has retained many followers and admirers, including, it is said, Donald Trump. For Andrew Wakefield read Boris Johnson, for the MMR vaccine read the protections that the EU affords us, and for frightened parents read voters fearing an invasion by immigrants. The parallels become clear.

According to an accompanying article, the anti-vaccine lobby is fuelled by various factors, which include a mistrust of official advice. Many Leavers share that scepticism. We’ve had enough of experts, as Gove put it. But newspapers know how to get across to their readers.

Although the safety of the MMR vaccine was conclusively proved in 2005, the Mail continued to support anti-vaxxers for another 10 years, insisting that doctors were talking “a load of old baloney”. That was under its former editor but all the same, I can’t see a turnaround on Brexit by the Mail or any of our rightwing dailies in the near future, especially if we lose the battle on December 12th. Brexit is a slow virus, which will continue to produce a gradual decline, and its ill effects will be blamed on other things.

Eventually however, as with the re-emergence of measles, the truth will surely become so obvious that it can no longer be hidden, and newspapers will see sales potential in reversing their position. The tabloids have form on making U-turns when it suits them. Remember the Hitler diaries hoax?  Rupert Murdoch bought into that deception and proclaimed they were genuine, bur he was even happier when they were exposed as fakes, because that sold even more copies of the Sun..

When I read a headline “Scandal of the Johnson lies which led to Brexit”, in the Daily Mail or maybe the i newspaper, I will know that we have reached the turning point. With the media on our side, things will be a lot easier.  It might even be possible to recover.


* John King is a retired doctor and Remain campaigner.

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  • The Daily Mail – gobbler up of the good up of the good old Liberal News Chronicle, and now The Independent.

    Maybe the Guardian knockers on LDV really ought to start to revise their opinion.

  • chris moore 6th Dec '19 - 11:08am

    Don’t like the Daily Mail. Don’t like the Guardian.

    It’s not either/or.

  • nigel hunter 6th Dec '19 - 11:21am

    Yes, the right wing press will do a U-turn if it sells more papers for Lord Rothermere and others. Dacre retires to his ‘estate’, i n Scotland I believe where hr can still ban beavers from doing good on environmental issues.
    Media is changing .Paper sales are declining. News and therefore influence is moving on line. It is there that how the Mail and others behave that will decide whether they are changing.

  • Barry Lofty 6th Dec '19 - 11:49am

    As a regular reader of the “I” newspaper which has always purported to be politically neutral , a position I have questioned on occasions, I was very dismayed to learn of its sale to Mail group although the editor of the “I” has tried to reassure the readership of its continued neutrality, I won’t hold my breath though.
    As for the Guardian, I gave that up years ago as it became more left wing Labour supporting, so the “I” was my last hope of a fair overall coverage of the news.

  • The printed press is dying and has been for years. Not many people read newspapers anymore. They’re all heading towards going online and there virtually no one will touch media they have to pay for. You don’t even see that many of them on trains anymore. Plus I suspect that rather than causing toxicity they work more as confirmation bias. People read the Mail because they agree with it, rather the other way round. If it suddenly became more like the Guardian they would stop reading it. I read the I, but if it turned in to the Mail I wouldn’t touch it. The world is not full of innocent empty vessel that you can implant ideas into that easily. The idea that it is, is something folk tell themselves to avoid contemplating the lack of enthusiasm their ideology or beliefs are met with or even just to feel that people are innately “nicer” than they are.

  • Jonathan Coulter 6th Dec '19 - 12:29pm

    One of the Mail’s leading columnists, Peter Oborne, had a Pauline moment when he switched sides and became Remainer. I would be good if other Mail journalists could follow suit.

  • The Daily Mail may gently guide its readership but it won’t go against them. Dace was allegedly moved up stairs because

    Rupert Murdoch asked Lord Rothermere at a recent lunch why he removed Paul Dacre from the Daily Mail. Rothermere replied it was because Dacre was “bad for business”.

    Source: Popbitch

    The Mail Group actually has the most popular Daily newspaper in the UK and it isn’t the Daily Mail it is the Metro ( a paper in my opinion so anodyne it is hard to say what it stands for). I feel the driver for the DMG group of papers and online websites is what can make the most profit and if being anti Brexit in the future is the most profitable route then anti Brexit they will be.

    As to the Guardian well if you want my money and you are always begging for it, try to be less of a Labour luvie, try to employ more journalists and less Labour party stooges.

  • John Marriott 6th Dec '19 - 2:12pm

    Not that long ago, my wife and I were members of a well known caravanning organisation. Some of its sites used to sell daily newspapers, which you ordered the night before and collected from the office the following morning.

    Now I realise that this finding might not be scientific; but viewing the piles of newspapers awaiting collection might have said as much about the ‘politics’ of members as anything else. On the left might be the odd copies of The Guardian. Then, like a bar chart showing the popularity of publications, the piles rose in height, not significantly as they passed the Independent, Times and Daily Mirror etc; but reached a veritable Everest on the right when they ended up with….The Daily Mail.

    Surely that ought to tell us something.

  • Speaking about the media, The Economist has endorsed the Liberal Democrats. Is it the only one?

  • The ‘Daily Mail’ doesn’t do news; like the ‘Express’ it merely reinforces the views of it’s readers.
    The ‘Guardian’ and ‘i’ at least cover news in an informative and largely neutral manner (despite articles on here claiming the ‘Guardian’ is purely Labour).

    I was amazed that John Crace was quoted as being biased against this party; his excoriation of Johnson, Corbyn and Farage were far more telling than that on Swinson,

    For those who object to press criiciism may I suggest that this party creates its own newspaper,,,,

  • Don’t worry, John, you have the BBC on your side.

  • Richard Underhill 6th Dec '19 - 6:16pm
  • As to the poster who stated” even just to feel that people are innately “nicer” than they are.” nice to see reality is taking hold. We are not innately nice, neither are we innately evil. We can choose to be either, although environment will tend to push us toward one or the other. We should try to be better than we are but I’m afraid for some the ease of blaming others for their ills tends to push them into the humdrum bitter and a little bit evil category. Not a pleasant realisation to work out which you’ve drifted into now is it.

  • Richard Underhill 6th Dec '19 - 7:29pm

    expats 6th Dec ’19 – 4:23pm
    The Liberal Democrat News played an important role in the Eastbourne bye-election.

  • Yes some people choose to be nasty and will even weaponize terms like “a bit exotic” in there attacks on people they disagree with. Yet still think they’re in a position to cast moral judgement on others.

  • The Daily Mail now vies with the Sun as the most popular (paid for) newspaper. Interestingly the same group that owns the Mirror fairly recently acquired the Express but has kept the Express as a right wing paper (I believe!) – although it is a commercial company without an individual proprietor.

    Interestingly the Mail also publishes the free Metro (now – just – Britain’s most popular paper) which has always been fairly neutral and unbiased in its news coverage. I think it likely that it will keep the i in its tradition as an offshoot of the Independent and keep it fairly neutral but we will see.

    The Telegraph is also up for sale, I believe, by the Barclay Brothers.

    One always thinks whether one is an Express, Mail, Guardian or Mirror etc. reader that one’s own paper (by and large) gives one the news as it is!!!

    It’s probably a good idea to read a range of papers to challenge one’s political complacency.

    As it is a childhood of being raised on the Telegraph, Mail and Express has made me a good lib dem and I consider myself at least to be in the left politically!!!

  • Nonconformistradical 7th Dec '19 - 9:37am

    Re measles – there have been reports that it messes up one’s immune system leaving one at risk of catching other bugs –

    As I recall (very long time ago and no vaccines around then) I had measles, rubella and chickenpox in the same year.

  • I have often used the quote

    “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.” Benjamin Franklin

    And yet while that quote is well known through out the world we are entering the school for fools.

    Researchers also looked at a number of other popular conspiracy theories. Both Trump and Brexit voters were more likely to believe that climate change is a hoax, vaccines are harmful, and that a group of people “secretly control events and rule the world together”. “We found the existence of a conspiratorial worldview linking both electorates,” said Leal.

    He describes the levels of science denial as an “alarming global trend”. In general, researchers found the idea that climate change is a hoax to be far more captivating for right-wing respondents, while scepticism about vaccines was less determined by “ideological affiliation”.

    So what are the consequences of going along with foolishness, well look at Samoa

    The measles virus has infected almost 4,500 people in the South Pacific nation of 200,000 since late October. Of those who died, 57 were under the age of four.

    Samoa has, meanwhile, arrested an anti-vaccination campaigner amid the outbreak. Edwin Tamasese was charged with incitement against a government order after he was detained on Thursday.

    The outbreak is in part blamed on people spreading false information, claiming vaccinations are dangerous.

    As the ghost of Christmas present said

    “They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree; but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.

    Brexit is a manifestation of the desire to avoid reality and go for the easy solution while placing all our problems at the door of someone or something else. This desire for the easy solution to ” Pull up the drawbridge against reality and let the world go whistle” won’t work it never does. Harsh reality will break down the drawbridge and people will suffer, he’ll as in Somoa people will die, all because reality was too hard for some.

  • John Littler 7th Dec '19 - 11:31am

    The Guardian has shifted from being a Liberal supporter many years ago, to having a nuanced position between Labour and the LibDems, but after 2010 it has dropped much serious journalism to campaign blatantly for Labour, converting overnight to Corbynism. Only during a General Election campaign is there anything positive or even neutral written on the LibDems.
    The Independent is pro LibDem usually but the online (only) readership is tiny. The Economist called for the LibDems with the FT making favourable noises, but these are read by 10’s of thousands, not millions

  • Peter Hirst 7th Dec '19 - 2:38pm

    The contest between increasing readers and ideological purity is an intriguing one. It is probably a balancing act as all media outlets have to survive. It is also a contest between editors and their management; the pity is that is has so much influence on our political life.

  • Measles is an extremely dangerous disease which nearly killed me when I was a child. That was before a vaccine became available. Today, anti-vaccine activists are risking the lives of children, especially in places like Samoa where a live (unintended) experiment is underway.

    Many parents there may have reason to regret not having their children vaccinated as the infection rate grows daily with tragic consequences. I hope for the sake of innocent children the parents come to their senses soon.

    People are attracted to newspapers, websites and social media that reinforce their beliefs. They tend to avoid media which challenges or offends their beliefs. The Guardian is an interesting example. As a strongly left wing newspaper the Guardian lost profitability as its circulation declined. Now it is dependent on direct donations by its faithful readership and is therefore trapped into ensuring that its output always pleases the donors. At some point it ceases to be a newspaper in the normal sense. It passed that point for me some time ago though I still glance at all newspapers in order to retain a broad perspective.

    Newspaper sales are in serious decline. Most young people get their news online. I find that very frightening. I hope that my fears are unfounded but the opportunity for misinformation is enormous. I am also very critical of our TV and radio media and regularly see or hear information being broadcast which I know to be incorrect or spin.

    I see no solution to that but would advise young people to sample a whole range of news outlets so that they become aware of the range of opinions on any given news story of political importance.

  • Michael Berridge 8th Dec '19 - 2:15pm

    @ Kevin Mahoney “Lib Dem Voice provides the only decent Lib Dem coverage, which is why I’ve just donated.” I agree with Kevin, which is why I’ve just upped my monthly donation.

  • It’s a slight myth that there is much decline in newspaper readership and actually I suspect it is on the increase if anything. With 25 million adults (about half) reading a newsstand “newsbrand” every day and 44 million once a week.

    Obv. Print readership has declined and putting news on dead trees and shipping it around the country is a massively expensive and inefficient way of distributing news. And of course people may (or may not) read only a few articles on a newspaper website rather than sitting down to read through a paper.

    Overall I feel that the consumption of “fake news” and “slanted news” has prob. gone down with the internet. It is easier to find alternative sources and there are the various fact checking sites. Certainly I find it a great boon for following American politics and I make a point of watching both Fox News and CNN (or MSNBC) and normally are less in favour of Trump having watching Fox News on the basis that he is not as good as they say and more in favour of Trump after watching CNN on the basis that he’s not quite as bad as they say!

    To a degree papers were also selling a package of news with a lot of common copy – a lot of use of press agencies and (at least until Teletext) they were the only way to get say football results which are the same whatever paper you read and now such info is available on any number of websites.

  • Not so many even read free newspapers. Not long ago there were few if any Metros left after 9 am but now I see huge quantities being removed as no one wants them. The same with the Evening Standard. How do the free papers claim their circulation figures ?

  • I should add that Trump is no longer an anti-vaxxer, having pivoted to unreserved support for vaccines in April this year, as a result of a measles outbreak in the US. This may be sufficient explanation for the Mail’s U turn, though the change in editor may have helped. Let us hope Trump changes his mind on Brexit !

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